Reflecting on Two Years as a Startup Engineer

Apr 18, 2014, by Steven Steffen

Looking Back.

Its hard to believe its already been two years. It still feels like only a short while ago I had my first interview to join a company that has proven to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Since the day I joined, my professional life has been a haze of coding projects, white-boarding sessions, and a constant burning desire to push my abilities and the speed of turnaround as far as I can possibly go.

I joined ToutApp on April 18th of 2012. 2 years ago today to be exact. I remember my interview fairly vividly. It was not altogether any unique day, but I could tell after meeting with TK that there was something, unique, about this. Even as early stage as it was. I was surprised and honestly really worried about the fact that the company at that time, was only 3 people strong. Of these 3, only one was another engineer, who was also the founder. Coming from a separate team consisting of several engineers that still managed to fall flat on it’s face, I was very timid about the job at first. I was very concerned about joining a team that could lead me to looking for another role 6 months later. I spoke with TK for a long time about the pipeline and his plans for the company. Today we still occasionally joke about those days and how I “ran him through the ringer” with all my questions. However, when I was offered the position and deciding whether or not to accept I thought, ‘Hey, I’m still young, I don’t have a family yet. Now’s as good a time as any to take a leap of faith and risk it’. So less than a week later I walked through the door as a new engineer.

Challenges, Celebrations, and What I've Learned.

Since I joined its been a whirlwind of challenges, celebrations, and more than one fairly sappy moment. From the first day I set foot in the door I was deploying new features to the platform. Since then its become in my mind a haze of coding in brand new territory. Developing the Outlook plugin was only my second full project here. TK just walked in the room one day and said “Hey, we need to make the Outlook plugin, want to learn C#?”, to which I responded “I’m down.” A few weeks later we were rolling out to a few customers to see if we were on the right track, not long after we had rolled it out. Since then, its seen several iterations and huge improvements as I’ve learned more fun little C# tricks. Other projects I’ve “owned” have come and gone, and over this past 2 years, I was a large influence in developing our entire Next front-end. Since we have a policy on experimentation, we tend to throw away a great deal of code. This gives me multiple opportunities to take a several hundred line code file I wrote early on and go “NOPE!” and delete the whole thing. Then rewriting it in a mere fraction of the time it took the first time and managing to reduce it down to a few hundred lines instead. It’s almost a therapeutic experience.

Feel the Love. 

The professional experience and growth is nice, but what really makes this worth it to me, more than anything else, is the team itself. The people I get the pleasure of working with on a daily basis really makes the company great. It’s how we know we’re on to something, it makes late nights worth it, it makes time away worth it, it makes everything I do worth it. When we interview prospective hires I always find it fun to see how they play out. The way we light up when the candidate asks us what it’s like working here, and how excited they get in response. The one thing that is always constant about us is that everyone that works with us, loves to work with us. After a short time, it really starts to feel like family. Some of our newest hires have only worked here a few weeks, but most of us already feel like its been several months. We can’t remember what it was like without them, yet we still manage to maintain our core values. It’s a really great dynamic that makes each day a new piece of the journey. A long journey with people you forge a fellowship bound by a common goal, and a common passion.

So to my team, I say thanks for a great two years! I look forward to many more, and a lifetime of friendships from it.

To everyone else, seriously, its a great group of people. I’m not making this up or even exaggerating. They’re really just that wonderful.

Oh, and we're hiring a badass Engineering team. Want to join me?  


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